The Virginia Cavaliers take on the struggling Wake Forest Demon Deacons in a mid-week ACC showdown this week. Generally speaking, the Wake Forest games have been too painfully ugly for me to watch this season, so we invited Martin Rickman from Blogger So Dear to take on a few of our questions this week. When you're done here, head over there and read our responses to their questions.
(Note: Normally I say that we've invited "our friends over at Blogger So Dear," but I saw in a survey comment that no one likes when I call them our friends. Relatedly, have you filled out the survey yet? You could win $50 to the Cavalier Team Shop!)
Spoiler alert: Wake Forest fans are a bit disenchanted with what they've got going on down there. Good news is that bitter fans make for the best commentary.
Streaking the Lawn: At 2-7 in the conference, Wake Forest seems to be battling with the Hokies, Georgia Tech and Boston College for the bottom of the conference. Is there any reason to believe that Wake does not belong down there? (I happen to think it's a gauntlet fight between BC and GT.)
Blogger So Dear: No. They absolutely belong down in the 9-12 range. It's just a question of which teams can duke it out to avoid the #QuestForThe12. Wake Forest lacks talent and depth and has a coach that is not getting the most out of his players. Virginia Tech is the most talented of those teams and I feel that they will come out on top of that bottom group, with Georgia Tech next, WFU, then Boston College at the bottom.
The Deacs do have a shot at being better than Georgia Tech. They'll need to win in the head to head though.
STL: I'm extremely jealous that you have not one, but two guys at 7-0 tall, both of whom put in real minutes. Ty Walker averages 2.9 blocks a game, and Carson Desrosiers averages 2.2. Virginia doesn't have a guy over 6-8. Is this size advantage big enough to give the Deacs the edge in this matchup? How effective are Wake's big men, and what's the best way to stop them?
BSD: Wake has two seen footers, but doesn't use them very well. The Demon Deacons are a horrific rebounding team, and don't get anything offensively out of Walker or Desrosiers. Fortunately, as you mentioned, both players are good at altering shots around the rim and picking up blocks.
This is the first season that Ty Walker has played effective minutes of any kind, and he has done a good job of improving on both sides of the ball. His work ethic has been tremendous, and Wake Forest fans are really proud of Ty's ability to get his head right and be productive during his senior season. Desrosiers has largely been disappointing. He's a Euro-style big, and is a lot more comfortable out of the post. He gets pushed around and disappears during games.
The best way to stop them is to drive the lane and play fearless. Defensively, force Wake to shoot over the top of the zone and then get out and run in transition. Virginia has the edge here based on how they play defensively, and the matchup scares me...a lot.
STL: C.J. Harris is only a junior! And Travis McKie is only a sophomore! Wait, those aren't questions. ...how is this possible? I feel like I've heard their names for a solid decade now -- probably because Harris averages 17.5 points per game, and McKie averages 15.8. What are these guys' favorite shots, and how does one defend against them?
BSD: Both players were asked to be productive from day one. Harris outplayed his recruiting ranking during his freshman year and slumped a little bit last year, but has really turned it on in his junior campaign. He's improved his ball handling, his shot and his ability to finish around the rim. He just needs to be more assertive and take over games. He is often the only offensive threat.
McKie had a terrific year last year, and started out this season on fire. Unfortunately, the extended minutes seem to be taking their toll on him, and his shot has suffered of late. He is not a dribble-drive player, and cannot shoot in rhythm. He is at his best when he's playing the 4 and can get points off motion or putbacks, but has been asked to play the 3 this year, and there have been times when he's looked a bit lost. I worry about some regression out of McKie. He's a great player, but would ideally be a third scoring option and can't carry the offense on his own.
If you can stop Harris and McKie, you stop Wake Forest. The best way to do that is to make Harris give up the ball, and force McKie to play isolation or keep him away from the basket.
STL: Hopefully by now you've heard of Mike Scott (He is the one who invented the internet, I believe). Does Wake have an answer for the guy whose best shot appears to be a fadeaway midrange jumper?
BSD: Not really. I think you might see McKie on Scott, which would be a good matchup, quite honestly. Hopefully, McKie can stay out of foul trouble. If you see Nikita Mescheriakov on Scott, Wake's gonna be in trouble. Scott will get his points regardless. He's an unbelievably talented and efficient player.
STL: I ask a lot of opposing bloggers this, because it's a recurring open issue for us. How well, if at all, does or can Wake Forest full court press?
BSD: Wake doesn't press very well. They try, but it's usually the shell of a press, and just forces teams to use up more of the shot clock, which you guys will do anyway (seeing as you're 341st in tempo in the country). It's pressure for show, and Wake doesn't force or score off turnovers very often.
STL: Prediction time. Who do you have and what's the final score?
BSD: UVA on paper scares the living bejeezus out of me. They play the same methodical game Wake does, but does a much, and I stress much, better job of it. They have an excellent coach, players that fit their system and show a ton of effort defensively. Wake's offense, despite a nice output against N.C. State on Saturday, sputters for extended stretches, and Virginia's good play on the defensive side of the ball should lead to easy opportunities for the Cavaliers. I think UVA controls the game most of the way and beats Wake, 66-49.